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New Year? New Bible Reading Plan?

Date Thursday, 5th January 2023

Preached by Linda Allcock

In Globe’s New Year’s Day service, Mike preached, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8). He challenged us to make 2023 a year where we depend on God’s word that endures rather than ourselves. This dovetailed beautifully with my morning Bible reading, “train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim 4:7-8). My natural instinct in January is to make resolutions, whether that’s Run Every Day (RED January), Veganuary, or Dry January. In both Isaiah and 1 Timothy we are reminded that human training plans are limited, whereas what God does endures forever.

You might wonder why my Bible reading for Jan 1st was in the middle of First Timothy. Chapter four isn’t the obvious place to start your New Year’s Bible plan. That’s because I still haven’t finished my Bible-in-One-Year-2022 reading plan! But it doesn’t matter because in Christ I am forgiven for the days I messed up. I can rejoice in the finished work of our Saviour who never missed a day, never failed, who died in my place to forgive me and give me his perfect track record. Christianity is a world apart from Veganuary or REDJanuary. We don’t labour and strive to better ourselves, or to feel better about ourselves. We labour and strive because we are already saved, made into our best selves in Christ as we were created to be. Every day is New Year’s Day in Christ.

This freedom doesn’t motivate Paul to sit back and put his feet up, no quite the contrary. He is so joyful to be in Christ he wants to train to become more like Christ. Investing time meditating on God’s enduring word is a great place to start. Paul draws a helpful parallel between training ourselves to be godly and physical training. Here’s a few parallels I thought of:

1. Time. Set aside time. In Hebrew thought the evening belongs to the next day, “there was evening and there was morning, the first day” (Gen 1:5), which means our failure to start the day with the Lord almost always starts the evening before. My friend used to set a bedtime alarm to help with this! Make time for God’s word a higher priority than other New Year’s resolutions, for it is the only thing that endures.

2. Considering a ‘training plan.’ You could check out for some plans with application questions, as well as application questions from the sermon.

3. ‘Follow‘ others who’ve been doing this longer than us. In chapter 1 Paul describes himself as an example for those who would believe after him. I’ve documented a few inspiring examples in this Union Publishing article on meditation

4. Expect to find it hard. Paul likens the quest for godliness to a war, writing in 1 Tim 6:12: “Fight the good fight of the faith.” Prepare mentally for war this year if you want to grow closer to the Lord.

5. Fight through prayer – the ‘first’ of all the commands Paul writes to Timothy: “I urge then, first of all that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people” (1 Tim 2:1). Look out for our week of prayer inn Feb for help in this area!

6. Be diligent in these matters, give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress, Paul concludes in 1 Tim 4:15. I’m not sure this means posting on some sort of Spiritual Strava, but does remind us this is not a private battle, but one in which we help one another, sharing encouragement and supporting one another through the rough patches. Why not consider doing one21 with a friend?

As we start a New Year, let’s pray and ask God’s Spirit to fill the sails of fresh-New-Year-resolve, to train ourselves to be godly. Human training plans are limited, statistically they will wither and fall by 23rd Jan, but the word of the Lord endures forever.